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'G20 Geek' Byron Sonne Cleared of Explosives Charges 278

Posted by Soulskill
from the didn't-have-to-pull-a-dufresne dept.
New submitter davegravy writes "Byron Sonne, the Toronto-based security consultant, chemistry hobbyist, and geek who was arrested leading up to the Toronto G-20 for alleged plans to bomb the event, has been found not guilty of all charges. Sonne was held in prison for 11 months without receiving bail, and the ruling comes two years after his arrest. Sonne is considered by many in the Toronto security community as a champion of civil rights and a sharp critic of security theatre."
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'G20 Geek' Byron Sonne Cleared of Explosives Charges

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  • Unfair (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Terry Pearson (935552) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @02:06PM (#40008577) Homepage Journal
    Those who oppose security theater are often it's first victims.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Those who oppose learning the difference between its and it is are often the apostrophe's first victims.
    • Re:Unfair (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cbiltcliffe (186293) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @03:24PM (#40009463) Homepage Journal

      What I want to know is, where is /. user "Americano" now?

      He was all over the original story of the arrest, stating that Sonne must have done something wrong, because the police don't arrest people for no reason.

      Choice quotes include:

      Think of the black eye to Canada (and especially their law enforcement), if this were shown to be trumped up charges over a guy with a cell phone, a can of gas in his garage, and a couple walkie talkies? They'd be laughed at as a bunch of Keystone Kops for years over this.

      and

      Your scenario, where it's just a bunch of crooked cops looking to railroad some guy for a crime he didn't commit, while no doubt appealing to the "IANAL, but I play one on Slashdot!" crowd, simply doesn't pass the test of logic. It would require dozens, perhaps hundreds, of law enforcement and judiciary personnel to be corrupt to the point of downright evil in order for that to happen. Is it *possible*? Sure, just about anything is. But it's not *likely* that that many people would wake up and, in the midst of Canada being in an international press spotlight, decide to ruin someone's life just for the fun of it.

      I guess he's not here, because he doesn't want to be laughed at like a bunch of Keystone Kops......

      • Re:Unfair (Score:5, Insightful)

        by avgjoe62 (558860) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @03:31PM (#40009567)

        It would require dozens, perhaps hundreds, of law enforcement and judiciary personnel to be corrupt to the point of downright evil in order for that to happen.

        Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.

      • Re:Unfair (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Americano (920576) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @04:54PM (#40010631)

        Awww, apparently I hurt somebody's feelings! I'd apologize, but then, I'm not sorry. I stand by my original statements: the police didn't arrest him for no reason, these were NOT trumped up charges, this man was NOT railroaded into jail because police wanted an arrest. This was a case of a man deliberately setting out to probe the efficacy of security for the G-20 summit by purchasing chemicals used in bomb making, again - *in an attempt to prove that the security for the G-20 summit was ineffective.* In essence, he was betting that security wouldn't take notice of his activities... and he lost his bet.

        Mr. Sonne went out of his way to purchase specific chemicals that are integral components in bomb-making. He went out of his way to express his intentions to "test security" at the G-20 summit. Security took notice of those activities (which he apparently assumed they wouldn't), and they responded as if he posed a threat to bomb the G-20 summit (which was exactly what he tried to make it look like he was thinking of doing). Those chemicals were purchased in sufficient quantities that, if combined, could have created several kilos worth of explosive material (as testified by an explosives expert during the case [torontosun.com]).

        And technically, I'm just one person - I wouldn't be laughed at "like a bunch of Keystone Kops" - I'd be laughed at "like a Keystone Kop." But I'm glad something I wrote here was memorable enough that you're this incensed about it 2 years later. You stay beautiful, and let's do this again in 2014, okay?

        • Re:Unfair (Score:5, Funny)

          by lysdexia (897) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @05:04PM (#40010755) Homepage
          I'll wager ye three swine against your sister's maidenhead you'll still be wrong in 2014.
        • Re:Unfair (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Karl Cocknozzle (514413) <kcocknozzle.hotmail@com> on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @06:33PM (#40011601) Homepage

          Mr. Sonne went out of his way to purchase specific chemicals that are integral components in bomb-making.

          So what? Not illegal to purchase those components if you aren't making a bomb. In fact, it isn't even illegal to buy those things even if you're "thinking about" making a bomb. Possessing these things isn't a crime unless he actually builds a bomb. He didn't build a bomb, never had any intention of building a bomb, and the cops KNEW full-well he had no intention of building a bomb.

          So why the charges, if not to silence a critic?

          He went out of his way to express his intentions to "test security" at the G-20 summit.

          Not illegal. Ever heard of "Freedom of Speech?"

          Security took notice of those activities (which he apparently assumed they wouldn't), and they responded as if he posed a threat to bomb the G-20 summit (which was exactly what he tried to make it look like he was thinking of doing).

          More like they saw that a guy who'd been criticizing them publicly for ineffective security regimens and saw an opportunity to tarnish his reputation and chill his speech in the future by branding him a terrrorist. Even though he's been acquitted, the damage is done: In the narrow-minds of many this man is now a "terrorist" and damaged goods as a security analyst. ...All because he criticized the wrong person.

          And really, how anybody can claim it is anything else than that is beyond me: Almost every advanced nation factors a defendants INTENT to commit a crime into the equation of whether they're guilty or not. In no scenario can anybody claim this guy had intent to blow anything up: He's said he never intended to, and no investigator when pressed has EVER presented evidence he intended to build a bomb. This is a "wink-and-nod" between the cops involved to strike-back at somebody who is critical of their security-theater gravy-train--nothing more.

          • Re:Unfair (Score:4, Insightful)

            by tehcyder (746570) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:01AM (#40014433) Journal

            So what? Not illegal to purchase those components if you aren't making a bomb. In fact, it isn't even illegal to buy those things even if you're "thinking about" making a bomb. Possessing these things isn't a crime unless he actually builds a bomb. He didn't build a bomb, never had any intention of building a bomb, and the cops KNEW full-well he had no intention of building a bomb.

            This is a slightly weaker version of the amusing libertarian argument often seen on slashdot about assassinating the President (or whovever). It's not illegal to own a gun, it's not illegal to make threats against someone, it's not illegal to transport your weapon to somewhere near where the President will be, it's not illegal to set up your weapon with the sights zeroed in on the balcony where he will be appearing...and so on.

            The conclusion is that nothing is illegal except actually shooting the President, and therefore no on ecan do anything to stop it. Even if the Secret Service saw the weapon in place, they would be acting illegally and infringing on his rights to free speech, and to bear arms, if they prevented him from doing anything.

            Meanwhile, in the real world, if you make comments about bombs, and buy bomb making materials, you're lucky not to end up in jail for twenty years charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts.

            Although, again for the libertarians, there's no such crime as conspiracy anyway, as it's all just free speech until someone is actually killed.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by EasyTarget (43516)

          "Awww, apparently I hurt somebody's feelings! I'd apologize, but then, I'm a trolling jerk"
          - There, fixed it for ya.

          Two things spring to mind.
          1) 2 years later, and you're still trolling the same topic.. how sad is that?
          2) You wrote the GP post anyway.. your postings from 2 years ago are, lets face it, not memorable to anyone but yourself.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I personally know someone who was involved in this case, and even the judge realized the crown was stretching a lot of information. The crown refused to give on even the most trivial matters. You can find more information here: http://freebyron.org [freebyron.org] and all the notes on the trial here: https://github.com/colah/ByronTrialNotes/blob/master/days.md [github.com]

          A lot of things in your house are "bomb making materials." Just because his hobby dealt with (perfectly legal) rockets, doesn't mean he did anything wrong. Do you

  • by mindwhip (894744) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @02:06PM (#40008583)

    At least he got a trial.

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @02:17PM (#40008709)

      At least he got a trial.

      Yeah. In Canada. Meanwhile, next door [theatlantic.com]...

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @02:36PM (#40008929) Homepage

      Oh, don't worry - even the guys in Gitmo get trials. If they're found guilty, they're either executed or locked up forever. If they're found not guilty, they go back into prison until the prosecution finds something else to charge them with. It's completely fair!

  • Retaliation (Score:5, Informative)

    by davegravy (1019182) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @02:12PM (#40008643)
    • by redelm (54142) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @02:31PM (#40008859) Homepage

      Good luck to him -- even if he waits longer to get a jury trial, the judge will still set damages and cannot assess anything resembling punative damages under Canadian law. At most he will get actual, proveable damages, two years salary (should try for overtime:). And might actually get costs awarded against him if he rejects a higher "paid-into-court" settlement offer.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If someone keeps you working for them 24/7 for two years, that should be one hell of an overtime bonus.

        I figured Canadians would have inherited a British sensibility for paying people who were unfairly imprisoned without fighting it. Of course, the news stories I've read like that from England may have given me an overly sunny impression of their approach. It just always made sense to me that if the government should fuck up your life for any significant period of time, that they compensate you for

        • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @03:12PM (#40009319)

          I'm afraid you do have an overly sunny impression of our approach here in England.

          I was a witness in court a while back. It was a simple trial related to a motoring accident, which would take only a few hours. It had been aborted on one occasion a few months after the event in question, reasonably enough IMHO because there wasn't enough time left at the end of the day to be sure of hearing the case fully in one session. It was then tried on a different day, several months later still.

          The defendant was found not guilty. In their summing up, the magistrates criticised the police report that was given as evidence, and noted that evidence by one of the prosecution's own witnesses was a major factor in the not guilty decision. In short, the magistrates did not seem to have a very high opinion at all of the case that had been made by the prosecution.

          As a witness, I was entitled to some basic cost-of-living expenses for my trouble, and in practice my employer had paid me my normal wage despite missing the two days of work. However, I discovered later that the defendant (who, remember, was found not guilty, and had presumably already had about a year of stress since the accident with the case hanging over them) was entitled to nothing by way of compensation for either the lost time or the reduced quality of life.

          It turns out that in England, you can have your day in court -- in fact, you might not get much choice about it, and it might be more than a day -- but only at your own expense. It's no wonder that so many people pay up the fixed penalty fines for traffic offences they cannot possibly have committed, if it would cost them more than the fine to take time off and travel to a faraway court near where the alleged incident took place in order to defend themselves.

          It's a shame. I think rules that mean you can lose out even if you have done nothing wrong bring the entire justice system into disrepute. It's not as obvious as a couple of recent high profile cases when someone died after the police made a mistake, but in a way this sort of widespread, low-level abuse is just as insidious, and the kind of middle ground that we're talking about in TFA is the next logical step.

          • by bware (148533)

            I think rules that mean you can lose out even if you have done nothing wrong bring the entire justice system into disrepute.

            Or as we say over here in the colonies, "You can beat the rap, but you can't beat the ride."

      • by gl4ss (559668) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @02:47PM (#40009041) Homepage Journal

        apparently while there's no law that would force unjust imprisonment to have a compensation by default in canada, the courts can find it appropriate and do it anyways.

        story at http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2011/04/14/17995011.html [canoe.ca] has a list of some large compensations.

        • by redelm (54142)

          Nice, but these are only ~0.4 M$/y which looks like 2x overtime even while sleeping, totalling 10x salary.

          Canada/UK/oz/... rely _very_ heavily on the Crown (civil servants) and even company officers in general doing the "Right Thing", and being very embarrassed otherwise. Unfortunately, this has been eroded by US movies/TV.

          US/state/corp officials derive their power from election, and are otherwise devoid of civic duty. So they need hard slaps from courts.

    • by Khyber (864651)

      Good, he needs to sue them for BILLIONS and give them reason to never repeat this mistake again.

      • Re:Retaliation (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @03:14PM (#40009353)

        Good, he needs to sue them for BILLIONS and give them reason to never repeat this mistake again.

        We need something more creative for the malfeasance of public servants because any monetary awards will just nickle-and-dime the taxpayer who won't notice it and won't have the influence to fix the problems anyway.

        I propose indentured servitude. Anyone with significant involvement in pursuing this ridiculous case owes Sonne just as many hours of unpaid labor as they forced him to waste defending himself. Lets see that vindictive prosecutor made to personally mow Sonne's lawn every week for the next decade.

        • by idontgno (624372)

          Sonne doesn't have a lawn. He lost his house.

          I'm thinking "organs." All the vindictive screwups responsible for this abortion of justice have to give up one transplantable organ, liquidated on the open market, and the money goes to Sonne. Or the organ, if he needs it and is biocompatible. Or just wants to display it in formaldehyde on a shelf in his apartment.

      • As a taxpayer who would eventually be footing the bill, I don't see how billions would be of any help.

        He is definitely deserving of compensation, of course, but what I would much rather see is that asshat Bill Blair and all the other management toadies dangling from a tree by their gonads.

        How could someone with a decades long policing career NOT have known that kettling a crowd of innocent people for hours in the middle of a downpour was a bad idea?
        Or stuffing a makeshift 'jail' ridiculously beyond capacity

    • Set up a donations. I'm more the willing to for over money to see the Canadian gov in a whole lot of hurt.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @02:13PM (#40008661)

    I read this as "D20 Geek" - looks like he rolled his saving throw!

    >> 'G20 Geek' Byron Sonne Cleared of Explosives Charges

  • by DynamoJoe (879038) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @02:26PM (#40008809)
    He lost 11 months of freedom and overall two years of his life fighting bullshit charges. He had to move in with his parents, his girlfriend left him (she got arrested too), I presume he's no longer employed, and two years later he has nothing to show for it but a hollow victory in court. The government got what they wanted out of him: He's a warning to others of what they can do to you even if you've done nothing wrong.
    • by mhajicek (1582795)

      He's a warning to others of what they will do to you if you leave them in power.

      Fiss.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @02:34PM (#40008897) Journal

      Exactly. If the state can't prove its case, it should be forced to make the victim whole again. That, and the thugs who put him in jail on false charges should be imprisoned themselves.

      • I'd give victims of justice a credit. Imprisoned for 2 years? you get 2 years of credit, to commit any crime which has the median jail time of 2 or less years. Only limitation, the victims of such automatically condoned crime must be chosen among those who are directly involved with the trial. 2 years means you can beat em up, take their car to the manufacturer and see if it withstands a crash test, hijack their dog, stuff like this.
        That should make people in charge more responsible.

        Of course it will never

        • by qbast (1265706)
          My guess that favourite way of spending this 'crime allowance' would to beat the shit out of prosecutor right there in court room.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @02:37PM (#40008935)

      And here's the unpopular-on-Slashdot, but common-everywhere-else view: Yes, he lost all that, but he provides us all an excellent object lesson in how not to be a stupid douchebag.

      When you are not a security contractor with an official relationship to the people organizing and/or securing the G-20 summit, don't fucking go on the internet talking about how you're going to 'test the security' of the G-20 summit.

      If they want your help, they'll ask for it. If you offer your help, and they refuse to accept it, then by all means, write to a politician to express your views. Write to the newspapers to talk about how the security of the summit is flawed, and needs to be tested in different ways than are being planned (a legitimate *journalist* would be interested in this sort of a story - find one). Even express your views that the government is using ineffective security precautions that amount to no more than theater, and explain why online, on a blog, etc. But do not - I repeat, do not - continue making plans to "test" the security and talk about your plans to "test" the security.

      If they've refused your offer of assistance to "test security," and you go ahead and publicly continue to make plans to "test security," don't be surprised when they show up, kick in your door, and fucking cart you off because you're behaving like a threat.

    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @02:40PM (#40008969)

      It isn't over, he will sue for wrongful prosecution. He may even win, but even if he doesn't he did what he set out to do: draw lots of attention to the shoddy, expensive, ineffectual security practices in use. Oh, and also drew attention to the government's apparent imprisonment of innocent people for political reasons. I don't know if it was worth it to him or not, but he gets a nod and a thank you from people like me for what he's accomplished just in avoiding a conviction.

      • by BitterOak (537666)

        Oh, and also drew attention to the government's apparent imprisonment of innocent people for political reasons.

        Then he's doing the government's work for them. They wanted to make an example of him, and by drawing attention to his case, he's helping them to succeed.

    • setting aside the meat of the story for a moment..

      his girlfriend left him (she got arrested too)

      ...do we know why she (being girlfriend or, as an AC-followup notes, wife) left him?

      Perhaps he left the seat up. Perhaps he failed to inform her that he was purposefully taunting the authorities. She may have had crappy or good reasons to leave him for things he did or failed to do.

      Or perhaps she just got tired of him being in jail, and found it too difficult to remain 'at his side'. In which case perhaps tha

      • by 0111 1110 (518466)

        so wouldn't he be better off without her anyway?

        Have you ever lost someone that you loved? It all depends on whether he actually loved her or not. If he did love her I don't think that realization will make him feel any better about it. Her actions have made it clear that she did not love him, but that doesn't mean that he did not love her. For his sake I at least hope she was ugly.

    • obviously she wanted out and probably thought he was guilty and this was a good excuse. Way to support your significant other/spouse.

  • Bomb Ingredients? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mhajicek (1582795) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @02:41PM (#40008989)

    The Crown alleged he had all the necessary ingredients to build a homemade bomb

    I don't know anyone that DOESN'T.

    • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
      You must know interesting people. I could get the necessary stuff without much effort, but most of the obvious things that would be helpful (fertilizer, pipes, nails, charcoal, sulfur, saltpeter, prepaid cellphones) are stuff that I don't normally have in my apartment. Some household cleaning substances would be useful, but by and large I don't have enough. The more relevant issue seems to be that lots of people do have all of them with legitimate reasons, and that it is really easy to obtain them all. So y
      • by gl4ss (559668)

        http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/05/04/exploding-hydrogen-balloons-at-armenian-political-rally-injure-many/ [rawstory.com]

        you don't need even that. electricity, water, balloons and a balloon pump. or lighter propane and balloons. with a bit of macgyver anyone is a potential terrorist.

      • You don't have bottle of bleach, cleanser, a lead-acid car battery that you can drain, icing sugar, a bottle of ammonia, some drain cleaner, a propane bbq tank, rubbing alcohol, oven cleaner, hair lightener, a basketball, aluminium foil or a bicycle pump? (you can skip the potassium permanganate - a few drops of blood is also a good catalyst - high school chemistry)
      • There was a guy around here who they tried to charge with bomb-making. As a prank he had put vinegar and baking soda in a 2-liter jug and blew it up in front of someone's house. Now, tell me again, is the original poster being hyperbolic? Or is "the crown"?

      • Re:Bomb Ingredients? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by sjames (1099) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @10:34PM (#40013017) Homepage

        Do you have trash bags and natural gas service at your house?

        Got any ammonia and bleach (chemical warfare!)

        Bug spray?

        Gas can for the lawn mower?

        A can of WD40 and a lighter?

        Congrats! Though some of them would be fairly wimpy, all could be made into a 'bomb' sufficient to warrent arrest if you set them off in a public place.

        Of more to the point, all could be deliberately misconstrued to manufacture reasonable suspicion.

    • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @03:00PM (#40009203) Homepage Journal

      The Crown alleged he had all the necessary ingredients to build a homemade bomb

      I don't know anyone that DOESN'T.

      This, a million times over; there isn't a homeowner in North America who doesn't possess materials capable of being combined for explosive effect, most of which reside under our kitchen sinks (or wherever you stash your cleaning supplies).

      Claiming this as a valid rationale for prosecution is like claiming that owning bullets is intent to commit murder. It's not valid, it's just fucking stupid.

    • Hell I easily have all the necessary components to built a bomb. If you reload ammo you have everything necessary to build a bomb already.
      Gun powder: check
      Primers: check
      steel pipe: check (makes a great breaker bar)
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      I do, but given that she's only a very bright 3-year-old I'm not considering her a big risk for making a bomb anyways.

  • "'G20 Geek' Byron Sonne Cleared Explosive Charges"

    I thought the guy foiled some kind of terrorist plot by disarming a bomb
  • by idontgno (624372) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @04:19PM (#40010221) Journal

    "You're engaging in hindsight, which of course is 20-20," said police spokesman Mark Pugash. "... There was sufficient evidence to arrest, there was sufficient evidence to charge," he added.

    Pugash said it was a "dangerous assumption" to think that because a case was acquitted it should not have made it to court.

    "We investigated, we arrested, we charged ... the Crown took the case forward."

    The mere fact of innocence doesn't reduce the civic lesson value of this entire episode: You can be imprisoned for nearly a year, held almost incommunicado, and lose your most important personal relationships, simply because you're loudly opposed to the mechanisms of state security. Your "acquittal" does nothing to ameliorate that. Even if you win, you will still have lost, and nothing will change.

    Well, we can hope the police spokeman was wrong about the last part.

  • by sethstorm (512897) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @05:17PM (#40010901) Homepage

    Sonne, the judge said, felt “very strongly” about his wife.

    “I do not believe he would have done anything to risk injury to her or worse,” Ms. Spies said.

    The couple has since split up, something Mr. Sonne noted poignantly after the verdict.

    “It would be nice to walk out of the courthouse into her arms, but that’s just not going to happen.”

    Consider that they've already done enough destruction to the person's family - the law enforcement have done enough to not need to go for the coup de grace and "convict" him.

  • by Catbeller (118204) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @05:17PM (#40010903) Homepage

    That's why the 11 months, that's why the easily refuted charges, the pointless lying by the security forces. They aren't punishing him as much as they are demonstrating what they can do to YOU or YOU or YOU, if you get lippy.

    It's working. People are shutting up. You can't meter what ain't there, but public disagreement with the established police state is muted by these endless arrests. People don't want to go into debt for the rest of their lives, lose their jobs and their families, just to say "I disagree."

    Stay tuned for Rahm Emmanuel's series of lessons in Chicago later this week. It's Tuesday, and already the security forces are running helicopters overhead. We have LDAPs! Let the schoolin' begin.

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